What's in a name? Or a hyphen?

One of the portraits of Pitt-Rivers displayed in the Pitt Rivers Museum in 1900 1998.356.80

Seldom can one man have had such an abundance of possible surnames.

Before 1880 his full name was Augustus Henry Lane Fox. These names are not usually hyphenated. Lane and Fox were both family surnames. Fox being the family name he was known by which (as usual) he had inherited from his father. These two surnames were seldom hyphenated. According to Thompson, ‘the baptismal registers of the children of Pitt-Rivers show that Lane was treated as a Christian name, not part of the surname’. [1977:9] It is therefore probably more technically correct to call him Fox. However, many contemporaries referred to him as Lane Fox, and his papers were usually published under that name too.

The fullest form of his name after 1880 is

Augustus Henry Lane Fox Pitt Rivers

sometimes spelt:

Augustus Henry Lane Fox Pitt-Rivers

Pitt-Rivers himself seemed to use both forms.

This Rethinking Pitt-Rivers project team agreed, at the outset, to use the name Pitt-Rivers in its hyphenated form. This is at variance with the practice to that point at the Pitt Rivers Museum, part of the University of Oxford, where the project team worked. Here the practice was always to use 'Pitt Rivers' for the man and Pitt Rivers Museum for the museum at Oxford although very early (nineteenth century) references within the University sometimes used 'Pitt-Rivers Museum' or 'Pitt-Rivers Collection'. Therefore the Pitt Rivers Museum has seldom used a hyphen for itself, and now it is always presented un-hyphenated. The new use of the hyphen in the name, it was felt, would underscore the project team's intention to 'Rethink Pitt-Rivers'.

Pitt-Rivers' published and unpublished form of name

Before 1880, life was simple; Pitt-Rivers had, in effect, one surname 'Fox' with a final first name of 'Lane' (the remnants of another family surname). Most of Pitt-Rivers publications in this period are credited to 'Col. A. Lane Fox'. The two names are very seldom hyphenated.

The situation becomes much less clear after 1880. Pitt-Rivers' name in the Journal of the Anthropological Institute is most often given as his military rank followed by "Pitt Rivers", that is to say normally unhyphenated.

After 1880 Pitt-Rivers paid to have several very lavish volumes published. These generally also use the unhyphenated version of his surname with his military rank. An example is his final work Antique Works of Art from Benin Collected by Lieutenant-General Pitt Rivers published in 1900.

However there is a bound volume in the Balfour Library, Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford of the published papers by Pitt-Rivers, presumably either donated by Pitt-Rivers himself, or put together during the early years of the Pitt Rivers Museum, this uses the forms 'Pitt-Rivers' and 'Lane-Fox'. The title pages read:

'Papers of General Pitt-Rivers / Anthropological, Archaeological, and other Contributions to Learned Societies, up to 1884'

Individual papers within the volume usually use the form 'Lane Fox' up to 1880, either associated with rank e.g. 'Colonel Lane Fox' or an initial 'A. Lane Fox' and 'Pitt-Rivers' after 1880, usually with Army rank. This was common practise in the journals themselves.

Other people's take on the surnames


Harold St George Gray (one of Pitt-Rivers' assistants) later wrote a memoir about him, published five years after Pitt-Rivers' death. He uses the form 'Pitt-Rivers' or 'The General' throughout. He also uses the form 'Lane-Fox' for his name prior to 1880.

John Linton Myres in The Evolution of Culture ... of 1906 hyphenates, 'Lane-Fox' and 'Pitt-Rivers'. However, Henry Balfour in his introduction to the same volume uses 'Lane Fox' (and, rather bizarrely, does not refer to Pitt-Rivers or Pitt Rivers at all).

In their 1929 guide to Farnham Museum, Dudley-Buxton and George Pitt-Rivers  used 'Pitt-Rivers' for the museum and the man.

Michael Thompson was Pitt-Rivers' first biographer, publishing his account in 1977:

The names are confusing and it is important to sort them out before we start. The baptismal registers of the children of Pitt-Rivers show that Lane was treated as a Christian name, not part of the surname. From 1827-1880 the correct name of Pitt-Rivers was Augustus Henry Lane Fox (without a hyphen). He is indexed under Fox in Army lists and in the Alderley letters his wife's relatives always call him Fox. I normally refer to him as Fox when speaking of events before 1880.

Under the terms of the will of Lord Rivers he was obliged to take the additional surname of Pitt-Rivers, thus A.H.L.F. Pitt-Rivers, while his children had to take the additional name of Pitt, thus A.E.L. Fox Pitt. Just occasionally one finds Fox-Pitt-Rivers which was strictly speaking permissable. In signatures and on the title pages of the Cranborne Chase volumes Pitt-Rivers does not use a hyphen, thus Lieutenant-General Pitt Rivers. The hyphen is therefore optional but as it is normal now to do so I have used one throughout this book. [Thompson, 1977: 9-10]

Thompson and Renfrew in their 1999 article in Antiquity about the catalogue of Pitt-Rivers' second collection use 'Pitt-Rivers' throughout.


Bill Chapman wrote his 1981 D.Phil thesis at the University of Oxford about Pitt Rivers, his collection and milieu:

One problem not generally encountered by a biographer is the fact of a change of name. Pitt Rivers was born Augustus Henry Lane Fox, receiving the second set of surnames only in 1880 as a result of an inheritance from his great uncle. While occasionally referred to before that period as Lane Fox, he was usually called simply Fox and was indexed as such in his military records as well as in journals and other publications. The name of Pitt and Rivers were typically used together, despite the absence of a hyphen (since added by his descendants). To add to the confusion, he was occasionally known as Fox Pitt Rivers as well. In keeping with his own usage, however, I have referred to him as Fox prior to 1880, and as Pitt Rivers, also without a hyphen, after that period. [Chapman, 1981: ix]

Chapman continues this practice in his papers published about Pitt-Rivers after his thesis.

Bowden in his 1991 biography uses the form 'Pitt Rivers' or the less specific 'The General' throughout, as he had done in his 1984 short pamphlet.


Bowden, M. 1984 [reprinted 1990] General Pitt Rivers, the father of scientific archaeologySalisbury and South Wiltshire Museum

Bowden, Mark 1991. Pitt Rivers: The Life and Archaeological Work of Lieutenant-General Augustus Henry Lane Fox Pitt Rivers, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Dudley-Buxton, L.H. 1929.The Pitt-Rivers Museum, Farnham: General Handbook, Farnham: Farnham Museum.

Chapman, William Ryan 1981. ‘Ethnology in the Museum: A.H.L.F. Pitt Rivers (1827–1900) and the Institutional Foundations of British Anthropology’, University of Oxford: D.Phil. thesis.

Gray, H. St. G. 1905. ‘A Memoir of Lt-General Pitt-Rivers’ in Excavations in Cranborne Chase vol. V. Somerset [privately published]

Myres, J.L. [ed.] 1906. The Evolution of Culture and other essays Clarendon Press Oxford UK

Thompson, M.W. 1977. General Pitt Rivers: Evolution and Archaeology in the Nineteenth Century Bradford-on-Avon: Moonraker Press.

Thompson, Michael and Colin Renfrew. 1999. ‘The catalogues of the Pitt-Rivers Museum, Farnham, Dorset’ Antiquity vol. 73 (no. 280) pp. 377-392

AP, October 2010 updated May 2011.

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